Life, Autism, Disability, and More

Move Your Georgia Peaches Out of My Parking Spot

nature sky bird holiday

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve written before about Simon’s serious aversion to birds, and I still agree with it – birds can be super creepy.

When the weather comes in around here, suddenly the parking lots are filled with not only big black grackles (which terrify him if they get too close), but also with sea gulls.

This makes it hard to walk through a full parking lot. All the birds swooping, crying out, and even landing on cars or lights can make Simon panic. He’s gotten a lot better, and now he’s prone to say, “Shoo birds!” whenever he notices one anywhere nearby.

But it still makes it hard to walk through a full parking lot.

It was one of those weather-coming-in days when Simon and I went to the grocery store.

Simon has an accessible parking tag for situations like this, and I was going to use it.

The parking lot was huge, and I knew that trying to get from the end of the lot to the front door was going to involve a lot of ducking, dodging, and potential freaking out on Simon’s part. There was no reason for him to lose control on the way to the store, and especially no reason for him to risk in engaging in a dangerous behavior like running in front of a car if a bird got too close.

It seemed that all the accessible spots were taken, so I did a few circles around the parking lot.

Then I spotted it – a car with Georgia plates sitting right there in one of the accessible spots.

No marking on the plate.

No tag hanging inside the windshield.

Sure, it was possible that they had forgotten to hang their tag in the front window, but it was just as possible that they had decided it was too hot and they didn’t want to walk or they were assholes who didn’t care.

Because of that, I want to put this out there – please, please, please DO NOT park in a spot unless you are actually authorized to park there.

People might see Simon and think, “well, he doesn’t have a *physical* disability so he doesn’t need it,” but that ignores the safety issue. Being able to walk is a plus, but walking in front of a car because of fear and lack of safety awareness…not a plus.

We did manage to park somewhat close to the accessible parking, and Simon clung to my arm while we told the birds to shoo.

Good shopping trip, but, as we came out, the Georgia car was still there, taking up a spot that they may or may not have been authorized – or needed – to use.

We had one more errands to run, and when we got to that store, there was an accessible spot right up in the front, so we snagged it and went in. The spot was attached to the zebra crossing, and we could walk right up to the door without having to walk in the parking lot itself, making it a lot safer and easier.

Coming out, I was thankful that we’d been able to avoid the dangers that go along with those evil birds.

A formation flew overhead, and I pointed to them.

“See, Simon? It’s okay. They’re not bothering us!”

And that’s when one of the evil birds shit on the front of my tank top.

Evil, evil, evil birds.

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Self-Advocating for Cookies

pexels-photo-230325.jpeg

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

At Simon’s birthday party, he was showered with one of his favorite presents: books.

So many books.

So, so many books.

Maybe because the law of averages, he managed to get two of the same book. Since one of them had a gift receipt from Wal-Mart, we decided that was the easier one to swap out.

We returned it, and it went nice and smooth and easy. Gave it to them, got a gift card in response.

“Simon,” I said. “You get to buy something new! Do you want a book, a movie, a shirt?”(The list of some of his favorite things.)

“Yes,” he said, and he pointed towards produce.

Having no idea where it was going, I told him that I’d follow him.

He led on.

We walked through the produce and into the bakery. He wandered around it, looking at bread and cupcakes and…

“Are you looking for cookies?” I asked.

“Yes.”

I showed him where the cookies were, and he grabbed the kind he wanted – chocolate chip – and handed them to me.

“Okay, what next?”

He pointed to the back of the store and waited, looking at me.

“I’ll follow you,” I said. “Let’s go.”

And the grand tour of the store followed. We walked to the back. We walked to the side. We walked back to the front. Then to the back. To the other side. To the back again.

Half an hour later, I was getting tired. I convinced him it was time to pay and move on to our next errand.

He agreed, either tired himself or wanting to crack open the container of bakery fresh chocolate chip goodness.

To some people, it might not be a lot. Just a trip to the store.

But it’s more than that.

It’s a trip to the store where Simon gave the directions; where Simon picked out what he wanted to buy; where Simon made the decisions.

It’s Simon advocating for what he wants. Cookies.  

Little Pitchers Have Big Ears*

baseball uniform*I might be the only one who remembers hearing this when growing up, so a quick explanation:
Little pitchers have big ears refers to the fact that adults must be careful about what they say within the hearing of children. The saying refers to the large handles (ears) sometimes attached to small vessels.

Now that I’ve forced that random knowledge on you…

Lately, I’ve been trying more and more to get Simon interested in average discussions and conversations. He doesn’t seem to be very interested in communicating more than his needs and wants, but I can’t help but believe that there are plenty of other things he could say if he could figure out how. When we go places in the car, and he’s stuck as my captive audience, I start trying to get him to have a conversation. I’ll ask what color the sky is, and if it’s grey, then I’ll ask him what he thinks that means. Questions like that are easy ones for him to memorize, though, so then I start asking harder questions, questions about what he thinks about and what he sees out the window.

One Saturday morning, he had a baseball game, and that afternoon, I took him to Target.  While we were in the car, I asked him what he was good at.

He said baseball.

I asked what else.

He said math.

I asked what else.

He said basketball.

It was a pretty nice list of things for such an abstract question.  

We went into Target and Starbucks (it’s an addiction! Don’t judge me!), and I told him he was good because he helped push the cart and waited patiently while it took forever for the barista to make my coffee.

When we got home, I thought I’d try to continue the conversation and pull Dad into it.

I asked the question again, and this time he began with baseball, but then said he was good at Logan’s (the restaurant where we ate lunch after the game and where we told him he did good at ordering his own food and then waiting for it to come to the table), and then he said he was also good at Target and Starbucks.

After he had added those in, he went back to the original list including math and basketball.

The point had been made.

Just because he’s a teenager who doesn’t say a lot, he definitely listens and learns. And he has huge ears. 

No shave…never?

Beard and mustacheSimon started getting a mustache when he was 12. It was cool, though, because the school district allows mustaches from junior high on. (I’m not sure why.)

Now he’s 15, and he’s starting to get a lot of chin whiskers. It isn’t cool, though, because the school district does not allow beards. (I’m not sure why of this either…)

He seems to be quite fond of his beard, though, because whenever we ask him about shaving it off, no matter how we phrase it, no matter how we introduce the idea, his response is always the same.

No.

Apparently it’s not just his chin hair that’s started the no-ing in his life. It’s also the cafeteria food.

Simon is a grilled cheese connoisseur, and the school cafeteria does not meet his exacting standards when it comes to the proper presentation of grilled cheese.

Two grilled cheese sandwichesTop: Unacceptable. Simon will say no and refuse to take it because there is cheese on top of the bread.

Bottom: Acceptable. The cheese is in its proper configuration and does not cross the plane of the bread.

At home – and restaurants – this doesn’t be a problem, mostly likely (we’re guessing) because there’s not a choice involved. At home, he helps make it himself, and at the restaurant, it’s served to him. No choice to reject it and get a different plate from the line.

Hopefully, going with the flow when there aren’t other options a good sign.

Hopefully, that means that if we present him with a razor (without an option), he’ll decide that there’s no choice there, either.

Hopefully, if that doesn’t work, his high school will be understanding.

And hopefully, if they aren’t, it will be easy enough to create our own religion that requires members to grow beards and eat properly made grilled cheese sandwiches.

Social Stories for the Win!

simon at lunchSimon came home from school happy about school, which is his normal status about school.

School is an amazing place, or at least he thinks that while he’s at home. (While he’s at school, it’s often a different matter and he can get mad at things not happening on schedule or teachers not being there.)

But today, it was happiness.

From the moment he got off the bus, he said school was fun.

I asked what he did at school. “Fun,” he said.

I asked again, emphasis on “what” he did…

“Learned.”

“What did you learn about?”

“High school.”

Okay, maybe that’s actually a “where” response, but close enough that I’ll take it.

These feelings about school didn’t fade away. He ran through his usual “script” about going to school and when he goes back to school (tomorrow morning).

But that wasn’t enough today. He kept repeating himself and wanting me to repeat it back to him.

So I came up with a social story on the fly and told it to him.

“In the morning, you wake up, then you get dressed, then you eat breakfast, then you get on the bus, and then you get to school.” I held up a finger for each step, numbering them one through five.

He nodded along, so I went for the repetition.

“What do you do first?” [One finger held up]

“Wake up.”

“Then what?” [Two fingers held up]

“Get dressed.”

“And then?” [Three fingers held up]

“Eat breakfast.”

“And next?” [Four fingers held up]

“Take the bus.”

“And what’s the last step?” [All five fingers held up]

“Get to school.”

“Do you feel better now?”

“Yes.”

“Great, so can you please get out of the bathroom? Because I kind of need some privacy now.” 

Active Shooter

Image of Casket by Tony Alter - (CC BY 2.0) - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/On Monday, Simon’s high school had an active shooter drill.

On Tuesday, I got a message that Simon didn’t do well during the drill.

On Wednesday morning, I spoke at length with his school case manager who detailed the problems and changes they’d already started to implement.

On Wednesday afternoon, seventeen students were shot to death at a high school in Florida.

Simon didn’t like the active shooter lockdown drill. He does fine with the tornado drills, but the active shooter one…he couldn’t do it.

He stayed in his seat. He stayed in his seat because it was time for PE, not time to go sit quietly in the corner of a darkened room. He stayed in his seat because he wanted to run around and play basketball in the gym. He stayed in his seat.

He screamed. Loudly. So loudly that one of the vice principals came into the classroom to try to calm him down, but it was too late. He screamed.

He cried. Tears went down his face. He cried.

He stayed in his chair. He could not be quiet.

My mind skipped back to the most depressing show that I had ever seen – the M*A*S*H final episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen.”

In that finale, Hawkeye has broken down completely and is working with a psychiatrist. He recalls a time on a bus when there were soldiers outside, checking to see if there was anyone on the bus, anyone for them to kill. A woman had a chicken on her lap, and it kept clucking. But then it stopped.

 I found the dialogue for the scene:
Hawkeye: “There’s something wrong with it. It stopped making noise. It just–just stopped. Sh–She killed it! She killed it!”
Sidney: “She killed the chicken?”
Hawkeye: “Oh my God! Oh my God! I didn’t mean for her to kill it. I did not! I–I just wanted it to be quiet! It was–It was a baby! She–She smothered her own baby!”

My mind jumps back to thoughts of Simon at high school, Simon not being able to be quiet when someone wants to kill people.

Simon’s high school is working with him for the next time there is an active shooter drill. They are changing the appearance of his schedule to make it easier for him to deal with changes. They are making sure that there is some sort of computer that he can take into a corner with a set of headphones so that he can be distracted and still stay hidden. All of that is awesome.

Except.

What if it doesn’t work?

What is he stays in his seat?

What if he screams?

What if it’s not a drill?

My imagination runs wild with thoughts I don’t want to have.

Tomorrow is Monday.

Simon goes back to high school. 

I’m not tired – you’re tired!

Driving Simon home from his doctor’s appointment earlier today…

Me, watching him blink slowly, his eyes closing: Are you tired?

Simon, in typical teenager must deny everything mode: No.

Me: I think you’re tired.

Simon: No!

Simon, head slowly tilting back towards the headrest, eyes continuing to blink slowly.

Me: Are you falling asleep?

Simon, rallying quickly: No.

Two minutes later, I grabbed a picture at a red light…

Simon asleep - I'm not tired!